Throwback: Interview With Chrysler’s Lou Rhodes and Doug Quigley

Dodge Circuit EV Concept at 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show

Authors note: Back in 2009 when I was still the technical editor of the now defunct GreenFuelsForecast.com, I sat down for lunch with Lou Rhodes and Doug Quigley of Chrysler. At the time, Lou was president of the company’s ENVI divison and Doug was executive engineer for EVs. Over the prior 18 months, ENVI had shown off two sets of electrified concepts and was still hoping to get at least one into production. At the time of this conversation, Chrysler was struggling to survive and barely a month later, the company would go through bankruptcy reorganization before emerging as part of Fiat. While none of the concepts at the time, made it to production, lessons from the project were fed into the Fiat 500e and in 2017 a plug-in hybrid Chrysler minivan finally arrived as the Pacifica.

(Auburn Hills, MI, March 27, 2009) Over the last two years numerous automakers including Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi and General Motors have garnered attention for efforts to develop commercially viable electric drive vehicles. More recently Chrysler has also publicly jumped into the fray with the creation of its ENVI division, unveiling of several prototypes and the announcement that at least one of those vehicles would go into production in 2010.

Lou Rhodes, President of ENVI and Doug Quigley, Executive engineer spoke with Green Fuels Forecast about Chrysler’s plans for electrification. When ENVI was publicly announced in September 2007, many saw it as a knee-jerk reaction to all the hype that General Motors was getting for the Chevrolet Volt. In fact, the work of ENVI began quietly in late 2005 when the Chrysler Group was still firmly ensconced within DaimlerChrysler. (more…)

Leave The Brake Pedal, Take The Bolt – Driving Chevrolet’s New EV

It’s been more than eight years since I first drove one of BMW’s MINI E electric prototypes around downtown Los Angeles. One of the first characteristics I noticed about that car was the extremely aggressive regenerative braking that enabled driving virtually without touching the brake pedal. While BMW has persisted with that strategy as the only control mode on the production i3, other automakers have provided similar abilities only when shifting the transmission to Low mode. After driving the new Chevrolet Bolt EV from Tesla’s Silicon Valley backyard into the heart of San Francisco, I think all Bolt drivers should consider driving this way all the time.


2017 Volvo XC90 T8 – The Big Swede Gets Plugged In

The launch of the second-generation XC90 marked the beginning of a new era for Volvo a couple of years ago. The XC90 is the first model to ride on the company’s all-new scalable product architecture (SPA), the first all-new platform to come from Gothenburg since Ford sold the Swedish brand to China’s Geely in 2010. After initially being available only with boosted four-cylinder engines, the XC90 is now the first regular production plug-in model Volvo is offering in America and I recently spent a week driving one.


2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e – Fuel Efficient Family Truckster

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

It’s now been about a decade since BMW first announced its plans to get into the hybrid game and it was another three years before any production models with electric drive assist hit the streets. A lot has changed since BMW launched the ActiveHybrid X6 and ActiveHybrid 7 essentially as experiments in 2009. Electrification is now becoming relatively mainstream with batteries and electric motors no longer limited to super-efficient cars like the Toyota Prius. After a week with the 2016 X5 xDrive40e, there’s no doubt that the future of the ultimate driving machine includes plugs across the board.


2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid – Handsome Efficiency If You Can Find It

2016 hyundai sonata phev

2016 hyundai sonata phev

If you’ve been following along over the past year or so, you’ve probably noticed that I’m quite enamored with the current generation Hyundai’s midsize sedan, the Sonata. Since early 2015, I’ve driven the 1.6-liter turbocharged Eco, the 2.0-liter Hybrid and now the newest member of the lineup, the Plug-in Hybrid. The Sonata PHEV is the first Hyundai-branded model sold in North America with a plug and it’s one of only two plug-in hybrids in the midsize family sedan segment, the other being the Ford Fusion Energi.


By the end of 2011, the average age of the U.S. vehicle fleet had hit 10.8 years, the oldest ever. That's bad news for plug-in vehicles.

+Anton Wahlman do you remember this thread from early 2012? I'm reviewing a report right now and looked up 2015 numbers and found that PHEVs and BEVs totaled just over 114,000 for the year. Depending on how well some new and updated entries do later this year, we might hit between 150K and 200K this year. Maybe

Originally shared by +Sam Abuelsamid

By the end of 2011, the average age of the U.S. vehicle fleet had hit 10.8 years, the oldest ever. That's bad news for plug-in vehicles.

The fleet has been getting steadily older for a number of reasons. First vehicles today are more durable than ever so they just plain last longer. Bodies are less susceptible to rust and with proper maintenance, it's not hard for engines to run 200,000 miles or more. That's means there is no need to dispose of a perfectly useful car or truck.

The second and more insidious reason is the economy. For the past two decades, real incomes for all but the very wealthy have been either stagnant or declining. That means it's harder for most middle and lower income people to actually buy a new car. Up until 2008, automakers got around this by using subsidized lease programs. The increased durability and reliability of cars meant their value at the end of a lease was higher and they brought in more dollars when re-sold.

Following the financial collapse, increased unemployment, tighter credit, more expensive gas, higher prices on new vehicles and other factors have made it nearly impossible for sales to climb back toward their peak of just a few years ago. Thankfully, that same improved durability and reliability has made it easier for many people to keep their existing cars on the road longer, especially after their loans are paid off.

An aging fleet is actually a multi-edged sword. For consumers it means that buying a new car is something that can more easily be put off for a time. For automakers, it means it's harder to grow sales and employ more workers. For the environment and fuel efficiency, it means older less efficient vehicles stay on the road longer before being retired while at the same time avoiding the life-cycle energy costs of manufacturing, delivering and disposal.

All of this also means that it it going to be extremely difficult for plug-in vehicles to gain any traction in the market place soon. The cost of batteries remains stubbornly high while energy capacity remains low. With less need to replace vehicles and less financial wherewithal to do so, I don't see electric vehicles getting beyond a small niche in the market any time soon.

#cars #automobile #EVs #electricvehicles

Average age of U.S. light vehicles reaches record high, Polk says
DETROIT — The average age of light vehicles on U.S. roads keeps rising, reaching a record high of 10.8 years in 2011, according to an analysis released today by automotive research firm Polk. Polk&#3…

Why an Apple EV Might be the End of Tesla


Over the last couple of days I’ve been having some further discussions with people about what sort of car Apple might create if indeed they are developing one. As I said in my first post on the topic the other day, if Apple is going to build a vehicle, it will almost certainly be a premium EV in direct competition with the Tesla Model S and Model X. For any company getting into building cars for the first time today, this is probably the only rational course.

A major component of the investment in developing a vehicle is the powertrain and for internal combustion engines, that is a huge differentiator with different manufacturers having decidedly different characters. In its existing businesses, Apple contracts with other companies like Foxconn and Samsung to do all the actual production and they likely would for a car which I’ll come back to. For most of the important parts that are actual product differentiators like processors and fingerprint sensors, Apple does the design work in-house and only them manufactured to their specifications. They generally don’t like to licence these components.


Ideally, if you are going to write a regulation aimed at achieving a goal, it should… 3

Ideally, if you are going to write a regulation aimed at achieving a goal, it should be written so that it's technology neutral and for the most part the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules are just that. The bottom line aim of CAFE is to reduce the amount of energy used for road transportation in the United States. 

Back in 2007 when the current requirements were passed by congress, many outside observers felt that requiring automakers to hit a fleet average of 35 mpg or more by 2020 would require large numbers of plug-in electric vehicles. While there will undoubtedly be a certain percentage of new vehicles running on electrons by the end of the decade, many in the auto industry started looking at the latest available engine technologies and came to the realization that they could actually achieve the required improvements without a big, heavy battery pack at a much lower cost and without sacrificing the flexibility of liquid fuels. 

The problem lies in the fact that as fuel efficiency increases, the percentage of savings from each incremental improvement drops as I explained in this article I wrote several years ago.

If you can achieve a real world 50+ mpg in a midsize car at a price of $25-30,000 it becomes much harder to justify the cost and limitations of a battery electric vehicle. The combination of downsized engines with advanced combustion technology and hybridization will probably be the volume play by the end of the decade.
#fuelefficiency   #cafe   #electricvehicles  

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How tough CAFE delays EV acceptance
As you may have noticed, the industry's enthusiasm for electric vehicles has dimmed considerably in the past year. You could cite several reasons: election-year attacks on the Obama administration…

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BMW has been surprisingly aggressive with its plug-in vehicle considering that it's… 1

BMW has been surprisingly aggressive with its plug-in vehicle considering that it's not really in the mainstream segments like Nissan and General Motors. They've done a lot of technically very interesting things with these cars with their use of carbon fiber.

While I remain skeptical of the near to mid-term commercial appeal of EVs, I'd had to see the work BMW has done go to waste.
#electricvehicles #ev #BMW

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We Hear: Electrified BMW i3, i8 in Trouble? Automaker Talking Contingency Plans – WOT on Motor Trend
BMW's electrified future may be in jeopardy, as the automaker is now discussing exit strategies. Did BMW jump the gun on electrification?

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Ford is taking a very different approach to vehicle electrification from competitors… 5

Ford is taking a very different approach to vehicle electrification from competitors like GM and Nissan. In many respects, the approach is more akin to what Toyota has done but even more so. Several years ago Toyota declared that by 2020 virtually all of its vehicles would be available with hybrid powertrains.

Ford has decided that going forward at least its high-volume platforms would be engineered to accommodate a range of powertrains including conventional internal combustion, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full battery electric. In addition to the vehicle platforms, the manufacturing facilities have built-in flexibility to accommodate all of these powerplants as consumer demand shifts.

We've already seen this implemented with the new global compact platform used for the Focus, Escape/Kuga and the C-Max. The Focus is available with gas (and diesel in Europe) and battery electric, hybrid and PHEV in the C-Max and EcoBoost in the Escape and potentially any combination in any of these.

Similarly the new 2013 Fusion will be available with gas, hybrid and PHEV http://fordfusionstory.com/mpg/. Ford is committing to developing all of these options in a way that will let them shift as the market does.

Given the slow sales of late for Nissan Leaf (about 1,700 so far this year) and to a lesser extent for the Volt (it had it's best month yet in March but it is still short of the targets) it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next 5-10 years.
#electricvehicles #ford

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Sometimes first-mover advantage isn't quite so advantageous.

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Ford's Tortoise Strategy Seems Right for Electric-Vehicle Race – Forbes
Under CEO Alan Mulally, Ford mostly has been a corporate hare. Over the last few years, it has leapt into the industry lead in hybridization among the Detroit Three, in automotive connectivity via Syn…

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